She left the Wood the day her mother died.


It wasn’t a decision, exactly. A “decision” infers other alternatives, a conscious choice between options. But she had no choice – her mother’s passing meant passage of the fluffle to her aunt. As foster parents went, there was no one she could think of less suited for the job – Ukina Bysnoe was, by any measure, a cruel woman who trod on those under her with her stupid ugly curled-toed pointy shoes.


She had fostered disdain for her aunt from the time when she was three and had witnessed her cousin Arjm, Ukina’s daughter, get slapped for no reason. Not that she had seen the slap – she hadn’t been in the room. But she knew all about it, and knew of Arjm’s innocence, because Arjm herself had told her all about it later that night.


“She had no right!” Arjm had said while pacing around the small room. “I didn’t even do anything! There’s nothing wrong with trying to find the boys! They’re Viera too, aren’t they?” It was a refrain on Arjm’s favorite topic – the teen spoke of her mother’s many unfair policies, from going to bed before midnight to helping to clean their house and, although most of it sounded suspiciously like the kinds of things everyone had to do, it was understood that this was somehow worse, something twisted beyond the norm. Because Arjm said so and, at seventeen years, Arjm was the most amazing Viera ever – so grown up and smart and funny! Clearly she could do no wrong. Arjm and her tales of wrongdoing were only around for a short time, a few days while they visited from far-away Bysnoe, but they left an indelible mark: Ukina was a monster, of that there was no doubt.


And now, a mere fifteen years later, it was her turn to be put under the monster’s ugly low heel. It could not be borne. She packed up what little she owned and left that night. Then came back an hour later and rummaged through her mother’s jewelry box to find her favorite of her mother’s earrings, but the box was a jumbled mess and she was only able to find one when she heard the footsteps on the floor outside the room, so she grabbed the single earring and slipped out the window.


It was forbidden to leave the Wood – any who did faced lifetime exile. It was a truth hammered into them from the youngest ages. When she reached the far edges of the Wood and looked out upon the treeless lands beyond, at the slope of a hill that ran down toward a dark expanse of water and the flickering lights of an Outsider’s village, her heart quailed and she almost stepped back, nearly abandoned her purpose. But she thought of Arjm and bolstered her spirits and took a deep breath and stepped out of the trees, away from the Wood, and into the unknown. Whatever the Outside world might contain, it could not be worse than the rampaging despot she was leaving behind.

Author Sunscryer
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